As sure as snow falls every winter, the Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest returns to warm hearts, entering its 24th season as an ice-skating destination and its fifth as a dazzling wintertime urban retreat.
RiverRink affords kids and adults the chance to kick their heels on the ice for a $3 admission fee, with a $10 skate-rental fee collected for those who don’t bring their own. The at-large Winterfest, meanwhile—an approximately two-acre campus encompassing an arcade, lodge and a Franklin Fountain–operated “Confectionary Cabin”—is a free space with plenty of pay-as-you-go indulgences. While the kids skate or push quarters in the arcade machines, adults can warm up by the fire pits with the Latin-inspired dishes of Garces, a basket of Chickie’s & Pete’s famous fries and their choices from a menu of craft beer.
The venue’s event schedule kicks off right after Thanksgiving with a family-friendly weekend of free activities: face painting, live music and an engaging group of performers from Philadelphia School of Circus Arts. That all builds to the widely celebrated PECO Holiday Tree Lighting, with performances from a handbell group, an a cappella choir, the Wissahickon Skating Club and a headlining set from a yet-to-be-announced performer—plus a tree intended to be “so bright we want people to see it from the moon,” in the words of Winterfest director of programming Shelvia Williams.
New this year is Storytime at the Lodge, an hour-long kidcentric reading and meet-and-greet session with local authors that spotlights books recommended by the Free Library of Philadelphia. Also fresh on the calendar is a variety of multicultural happenings meant to spotlight the city’s diversity—everything from a Lunar New Year celebration to a Latin dance night. The venue’s twinkling lights, which show up in the evergreens and in strands hanging overhead, are also being upgraded to further riff on the winter theme and an acoustic performer will be regularly stationed by the fireplace to set a calming mood during the most blustery of Philly months.
Skate with Santa and the film series 12 Days of Christmas Movies happen throughout December, while $40 on New Year’s Eve nabs guests a front-and-center view of two SugarHouse Casino fireworks displays. The Winterfest Brewfest returns this season, allowing attendees to sample regional beers and meet local brewers at the lodge, as does a “Sweetheart Skate” for Valentine’s Day—keeping the winter feels going in January and beyond.